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The Java Podcasters, Part 1
Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

4. How do you put the show together? Do you use any Java tools to create or serve it?

I code the RSS XML by hand. Basically, I cut an old <item> section and paste it using an editor, usually Windows WordPad. Then I modify it according to the topic and metadata for the new podcast.

I've used Audacity and CDex, HotRecorder, and Skype. I use Windows Soundrecorder to splice together shorter .wav files and then use CDex to convert them to .mp3 format. Audacity is good for editing audio files. HotRecorder lets you record Skype conversations. The Swampcast website is on a Java-based weblog called JRoller, which is such a gift from Dave Johnson and the Roller gang. The podcast directories that feature Swampcast are often Java websites. That's a testament to the power of XML, since it's so easy to read programmatically. Simple and easy. Now, there are a slew of books about podcasting and Java, and lots of other tools to build them. I'm tech editing a book called RSS and Atom in Action, by Dave Johnson, all about cool blogging, podcasting, and wiki tools you can use as a basis for your own stuff, and the examples are all in Java. Dave's versatile enough to complement the Java examples with C# and Python, too. It's due to come out this spring. You can see some pretty elegant code in RSS and Atom in Action, and you'll be amazed at how few lines of code it takes to parse XML, serve up blogs and podcasts, and even back up your blog from a commercial blog server if you use the libraries Dave teaches you to use. It's been a lot of fun following RSS and Atom in Action's characters Rangu, Kate, and Otto as they work through the process of writing their own podcasting and blogging tools. I use a cool tool called ActiveWords, too. It's a tool that lets you write scripts to do things like annotate your podcasts with custom HTML you think of yourself.

I use Ping-o-Matic to alert lots of aggregators and portals when I publish a new podcast. Of course, the best way is to write a little script to use XML-RPC to do it automatically. Dave Johnson's RSS and Atom in Action will show you how.

Annotating podcasts is key, so people will have some links to follow, and I like to annotate my RSS with hyperlinks in the descriptions. That's easiest to do by looking at the Swampcast RSS feed and just imitating it.

Tod Maffin did the intro. I wanted something upbeat and I liked the idea of mixing in shortwave broadcast. That howl from "I Feel Good" by James Brown really wakes you up!

5. Do you have a feel for your audience? How many people are listening and what do they think of the shows?

I can tell a little from web statistics, and I like to see where people live and what they're thinking when they find Swampcast. Roller is the Swampcast host. It tells me what searches bring people to Swampcast, and the eclectic mix of topics I blog and podcast about attracts people from many disciplines all over the world. I can also see what people blog about regarding Swampcast using a custom RSS feed from Technorati. Trackbacks also provide feedback. Swampcast gets a few hundred hits per day on days I don't publish a podcast and more when I do. Various websites give insight into how many people are listening. GetaPodcast.com shows the number of times a podcast has been played from their site. JavaBlogs.com also shows statistics. ExtremeTracking.com is possibly the most useful stats engine. They show searches that brought the user to your site, geographical distributions, and more.

Some people think it's interesting. I've been told that the mix of news and descriptions of technologies and programming tips is entertaining.

Some people don't like it. I was informed that I'd been "Biled" one day and read a blog by Hani called The Bile Blog (whose motto is "If you have nothing bad to say, say nothing"), entitled "Poocasting." Hani flamed podcasting in general and Swampcast in particular, in big way. So did John Dvorak regarding podcasting, specifically, in his PC magazine article entitled "Podcasting: Not Ready for Prime Time." I had a little fun with John in a letter to the author here, and bet him he'd wind up with his own podcast. Shortly afterwards, This Week in Tech was born. The rest is history! My buddy Jim Moore (Spring contributor) told me, "some people come across better in print," and Blaine Transue of Virtual Garage said, "Ya gotta listen to yourself over and over again, and work on it." That's hard! It's so hard to listen to yourself. I was recently a guest on Blaine's show (MP3) in Sonoma, California. Blaine Transue is my favorite music podcaster and he invited me to talk about podcasting, technology, and programming.

Michael Hauser and George Coates do a video blog, BetterBadNews.com, all in Python and Zope. I've gotten interesting feedback from Michael and George.

I've made some great friends through the podcast. I was invited to give a talk on podcasting in Belgrade, Serbia! The students at the university gave me the supreme compliment: they asked for more the next day and I continued my talk over two more timeslots. I hear from them from time to time. Marko and the students invited me to a wild party and dance on the lake outside Belgrade after my podcast talk, and I bet we see some podcasts coming out of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia.

I met Behrang Saadeeza from Tehran, a bright Java programmer at the Polytechnic University of Tehran, because of his hilarious comment to a joke I put on my blog about a Texan in a bar and a bet. He responded with the same joke in Iranian terms using bread as the vehicle instead of beer. Behrang writes the blog Blogtime Exception and is working on his podcast (which might be called "'RanCast") as I write this.

I've gotten email from Malaysia, Peru, Russia, all over!

6. Is there anything else you'd like to tell potential listeners?

Disintermediation. What's that 50-cent word mean? Well, disintermediation means not having to have something like a radio station approve what you want to broadcast. That's the magic of podcasting. So, we hear podcasts from China.

Podcasting is all about the people and the technology, all about expression and breaking away from repression. "Radio? We don't need no stinkin' radio!" (Adam Curry Daily Source Code quote)

Atom is growing in popularity and worth learning. So are the metatags you need to learn to properly annotate your podcasts for iTunes. (Gotta do that!)

Fortunately, I have some volunteers through GatorJUG and OrlandoJUG, like Dan and Jen Lackey, and Anye Guevara, who help me with web development. I could use more help.

Follow the links. Send me comments! Do your own podcast. Join a Java user group. Do a presentation. My motto is "A little a day, every day." Coding takes practice--get yourself an Elmer and work the examples when you read to exercise your active imagination and memory. Java, XML, RSS, Atom, SourceForge: these are your tools.


We would like to thank Michael Levin and Dick Wall for their extensive and thoughtful replies. Next week: a NetBeans-only podcast, ZDot, and DrunkAndRetired.com.

Chris Adamson is an author, editor, and developer specializing in iPhone and Mac.


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